My Old Pants (Sermon)


A sermon delivered on August 27, 2023, at GUUF – Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (SC). A video of “My Old Pants” is available at this link, and begins at the 48:30 mark.)

This sermon is dedicated to the loving memory of CHAPLAIN AND HUMORIST, JONATHAN VOORHEES, with whom I most decidedly did NOT play poker with unsanctified wafers because Jay forgot to bring the chips.


I would like a chance to express my thoughts. And the best way for me to do that is in writing. (Be grateful that I did not elect interpretive dance.)


But, first. Please stand up. Rise. (I’ve always wanted to do that.) Now, drop and give me 20! No, just kidding. Or am I? We shall see. Please, be seated.


This is NOT a self-help sermon.


My dearly departed friend, to whom this message is dedicated, the Reverend Voorhees, would not have approved of this title—even if it is derived from my book, THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK: AND YOU CAN TOO!


I have honestly felt Jonathan’s presence while composing this message. If he could see me, humble sexton, delivering a genuine, bona fide sermon.


Anyway, the REVISED title of my humble, former unhappy fat man (the “unhappy” is more urgent than the “fat”) message is:




(Just be happy it wasn’t “As the Deer PANTeth for the Water.”)


I think I get two points for a pun and a dad joke, right, Kat?




There are so many ways to begin this morning’s message, but let us begin with the obvious. Today, I stand before you, in fact, wearing pants.


And a shirt, mind you. A rather nice, formfitting, whiskery shirt, if I do say so myself.


Let’s get back to the pants. In fact, THESE pants. My OLD pants.


(When Kat read the following part of my sermon draft… {ARIK PRODUCES PANTS AND DOES AMAZING THINGS!} she couldn’t wait to see what an AMAZING PANTS MOMENT might be. Well, here goes.)


It was not so long ago, that I did not have a pair of pants. Which, I might add, is a rather strange state in which to find oneself. (I am happy to report, that, from our point of view, this congregation is an All Pants, or of Universal Similar Attire, Congregation.)


To correct myself: I had pants. I did not have pants that fit. Well, they fit. But only in the way that you can squeeze a Christmas tree into a giant Hefty bag. Now, decidedly…




…They do NOT fit.


(Someone really needs to hem this guy in.)


If you search my name, ARIK BJORN—


By the way, what are you names?




Well, it’s certainly nice to meet all of you.



If you search my name, ARIK BJORN, on social media, you may find a photograph of a cargo-shorts’d, bearded Viking who also has the look of a beached Santa Claus buoy, washed up on a winter beach. Atop the unhappy fat man’s beanied head is a raven, which seems to be staring at this man’s giant paunch inquisitively, as if to say, “Caw! So, when are you due?”


My buddy Jay—hi, Jay!—took this photo of me at the Outer Banks in February 2022. I really looked forward to sharing this moment on social media—until I actually saw it.


There were so many fun things about the image, but this was the moment when I realized my physical condition was out of control. I posted the picture on social media anyway, but it continued pecking at me—just like the dark bird atop my head.


Later that spring, my chronic insomnia (a residual gift from COVID) went really bonkers, and my entire life unraveled. I lost my job as a public librarian. I saw Lizard People roaming about my house due to a sleep medicine allergy, then gradually dived into self-medication in a desperate attempt to remedy my abject sleeplessness.


By August 2022, I had ballooned to 290 pounds. I could hardly navigate stairs without a railing, as my knees were pretty much bone on bone.


Now or never. Either/Or. Jesus take the wheel—of cheese! It was a do-or-die life moment. I had lost nearly everything. Losing one more thing was the key to gaining it all back:




So I did.


Along the way, I also shed a couple nasty pscyho-social survival skillset habits formed from youth. I learned how to stand up for myself. (Yeah, unhappy fat me was the horse in “Animal Farm.”) And I learned how to give because I want to, not because there’s a possible table scrap waiting for me at the end.


I also learned that it’s okay to screw up.


It’s okay to make a mistake. But it’s NOT OKAY to stop taking care of yourself. Because THAT IS the foundation of being able to love others.


By the way, I wrote a book about all this stuff. It’s called:




It would be a shameless plug to tell you THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK: AND YOU CAN TOO! is available on Amazon.


Honestly, I published the book with the intent of practically giving it away. And I do! I like to just leave copies somewhere randomly. Who knows? Look under your seat, maybe you’ll find one. Or is that just another dirty attempt by me to boost your circulation?


It’s the oldest hashtag in the wiki of collective human wisdom: If you don’t love yourself first—by which we mean take care of your overall health—it’s going to seriously interfere with all of your relationships and everything you care about.


My good friend and former congressional candidate colleague and maritime engineer, Dimitri Cherney, told me that that little bit is so important I should bold, underline and italicize it. Well, if it commands such enterprising lexical formatting in book form, it probably bears repeating with booming, theatric gusto:




If you don’t love yourself first—by which we mean take care of your overall health—it’s going to seriously interfere with all of your relationships and everything you care about.


Shedding pounds wasn’t the only remedy I needed. But Recovery is unique for everyone. I knew that a regimented exercise routine and diet were key for me to also dredging my emotional and spiritual being from the ocean floor.


There were trainers, therapists, saints for friends, even a mermaid or two. A whole heckuva lot of people contributed to me going from 290 pounds 13 months ago, to—as of this morning—ahem! without my pants—205 pounds.


Let us just say that it was much easier walking from the parking lot into this sacred space this morning 85 pounds less the wear.


Those helpful individuals I just mentioned were incredible human beings, but they didn’t walk one step of my Health Recovery Journey in my old pants. I did.




Pants Drop.


I started loving myself. I take the blame, I take the credit for my new pants.


When it comes to general health, we often ignore common sense and allow ourselves to by hypnotized by the consumeristic, cottage (cheese) industry of wellbeing. Everything essential to say about embarking on a Health Recovery Journey should actually fit into a few short paragraphs. So here goes:


  1. A wakeup call may be coming. Perhaps you too have been mocked for your buoyancy by beach fowl. No more snooze buttons. WAKE. UP. It’s time to make your health and wellbeing a number one priority.


  1. What comes next is up TO YOU. Most of us need someone to hold us accountable to a plan: a guide, a confidante, a trainer, a box of Kleenex with arms and legs. (For some other helpful hints, you may have heard me mention some book called THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK.)


  1. You kind of need a plan. Don’t worry, though, it’s YOUR plan. It belongs to you. You can keep it a secret, post it in Times Square. Change it, add to it, erase it—completely rewrite it whenever you please. And best of all, it’s up to you to follow it casually or compulsively, whatever floats your boat.


  1. Be good to yourself. Love yourself—by which we mean take care of your overall health. Remember: this is just the beginning. Start thinking about how to enjoy your new self.


For the most part, it is that simple. Nah, not simple—DOABLE.


The book upon which this message is based, THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK: AND YOU CAN TOO! is my 10th book. Or maybe my 11th. I’ve lost track.


I no longer write books aspiring to be a successful author. I wrote THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK because when I needed it, I couldn’t find it. Well, it’s out there. Maybe under your chair. Maybe on Amazon for next to nothing?


My daughter and I have thoroughly enjoyed the graciousness of your community. This is our second service ever at a Unitarian Church. “Well, Church No-Church. An unchurch.” That’s how I described your community to her when she was 9. Today, she actually drove us here from Columbia. Sweetie, are you driving back? (Y’all may want to rush home quick after the service.)


Anyway, this instance of your community was universally as wondrous as the first. We’re going to have to do it next time in the very near future.


Speaking of the future, I’m headed there now. Along with my pants. MY NEW PANTS.


When next we meet, I’ll hardly recognize you.


What are your names again?


Right. You’ll be your newer you. And well-prepared for all the journeys yet to come.




I should warn you. Hitting my goal of 210 pounds, and achieving a number of mental health milestones, wasn’t the hardest part of my Health Recovery Journey. There I was, back in early April 2023, just a few months ago, taking in a well-deserved victory view from the Health Recovery Journey Hero Mountaintop Suite.


I pumped my chest. Hooted a bit. Then the mountaintop clouds cleared. The vista came into focus. DANG. I was standing on what was merely the first summit of an expansive mountain CHAIN. Here’s one last mountaintop morsel:


Achieving your goal is only the beginning.


Maintaining your goal is way, way harder.


Even so. Just remember: LOVE YOURSELF. That’s the first step in loving others.


August 28, 2023





Thank you to Ward Hammond and GUUF for the invitation and the opportunity to present this self-care message.


A video of “MY OLD PANTS” is available at this link, and begins at the 48:30 mark.)


THIS IS NOT A SELF-HELP BOOK is available at Amazon.




Clip to Evernote

You must be logged in to post a comment.